Sunday, January 30, 2011

In quest of a new series

So lately I've been watching a show called "Da Vinci's Inquest" about a Canadian coroner -- it's a bit like a Law & Order: Vancouver, only better.

(As a side note, one of my friends recently moved from California to Vancouver, and in trying to get everything sorted out has found that a significant percentage of Americans involved in customer service have no idea that Vancouver is in a foreign country. I can't say I'm surprised.)

Anyhow, you can tell that this is a Canadian show because hardly anybody gets shot, and one person was killed with a hockey stick. I have to admit that I'm still a little unclear on the concept of what exactly a coroner does in Canada, but I think I may also be unclear about what a coroner does in the U.S. aside from writing a book about Marilyn Monroe, so it's possible they do the same thing.

In the show Vancouver seems like a pretty nice place to live, although I've noticed that it always seems to be summer... almost like winter in Vancouver might not be fun to film outdoors.

The other thing I've found about the series is that all of the actors fall into that category of "hey, I've seen that guy in something". Hardly ever the lead, but usually enough of a part that I think about it for fifteen minutes until I finally realize that he was the short guy that kept jumping through wormholes on that other show for three episodes. It's a bit distracting.

So, yeah, if you're in search of a new police procedural to watch which doesn't have much in the way of police or procedure, it's a fine show.

Just watch out for those crazy Canadians and their hockey sticks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rhymes with Moron-ge

I spent a large chunk of my afternoon at work trying to get rid of some of the 1,700 messages sitting in my inbox. That's about 1,699 more things than I can think about at any one time. Obviously I have fallen a little behind.

In completely unrelated news, I found this lovely orange this morning.

I guess one could say that I technically "stole" the orange since I just walked off with it, although I think it may have been within my legal rights. It was sitting on the public sidewalk near an orange tree.

I don't know the people who own the tree. I'm pretty sure they would have been okay with me taking the orange if they're reasonable sorts since there were a lot of oranges still on the tree and a few more on the ground under it.

I could even make the claim that I was doing a public service by keeping the sidewalk clear. I might have even saved the homeowners from a lawsuit. After all, a morbidly obese woman on a motorized scooter zipped by me down the sidewalk mere moments later. She might have crashed if the orange had still been there (although I'm guessing that between her and the scooter the poor orange would have been crushed without even leaving a noticeable bump).

Anyway I took it, and I'm glad. My little Mandarin orange tree has a limited supply.

But I probably wouldn't have done it if the owners had been watching...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Change Is Good

Over the years I've received a lot of memorable memos. Not necessarily memorable in the way the writer intended -- usually it was a completely unintended effect.

My favorite was the stiffly worded memo about not watching porn at work sent by our devoutly Catholic director (who had a picture of the pope on the wall above his marital bed).

The worst was a memo sent by someone very high up in the company congratulating the "heroes" from the company who rushed to Columbine after the massacre and set up temporary cell phone towers so the media could make telephone calls.

One of the oddest, though, was a memo from someone in a position of power that included the sentence "Change is good". It wasn't qualified in any way -- according to that person, any change whatsoever was a positive move. I hope it is written on his tombstone when he dies.

What made me remember this was my walk downtown yesterday morning. I passed a shop without a visible name that had a banner claiming "Under New Management!" and there was red sheeting covering all but the front few feet from view. I had to think about it for a while to figure out what was there before since about half of the downtown spaces are vacant. Then it hit me -- Jim's Store was gone.

What is Jim's Store when it's under new management? Obviously the new management couldn't figure it out either since they took down the name sign that used to hang in the window.

So... change is good? Maybe, but they've taken away the skulls, knives, and dragon clocks and put up a Valentine's Day display so I'm not that hopeful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Five more minutes...zzzz

At 7:30 this evening I realized I was suddenly really, really tired. Possible causes?

- I had just finished deploying the latest release to the production server, something that I find both very stressful and very tedious.

- After the deployment I went back to my own work, which involved testing this little change that I made that affected all sorts of things and testing is just boring (although necessary).

- I was heading into hour nine of the workday.

- I'm getting old. (This was Jeff's contribution. Please note that he is three years older than I am.)


- The night before last I went to bed at 10:30 pm and ended up reading until 3:30 am, which gave me a whopping three hours to sleep before I had to get up again.

See, this is the great thing about being an adult and the reason that you couldn't pay me enough money to go back through childhood again. If I want to stay up and read, well then, I can damn well stay up late and read. Of course, the downside is that I have responsibilities and I will pay for not getting enough sleep, but still, it's the principle of the thing.

I think I'll have brownies and bagels for breakfast tomorrow...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yet Another Nile?

I first ate Ethiopian food as a freshman in college. My suite mates and I drove into San Diego to the Blue Nile Restaurant (or possibly the Red Nile Restaurant -- I went to both over the next few years, and I can't remember which was which. It was definitely some color of Nile though.) The Nile of Color was pretty authentic as far as restaurants go. Everyone who worked there was actually from Ethiopia, and it was an Ethiopian singles bar as the evening went on. The food was amazing, and I (the person who fully delights in the fact that nobody can ever make me leave California ever again) love going to Ethiopian restaurants, even to this day.

A few years ago I played floor hockey in an informal team in Sacramento and we made it a habit to go to the Ethiopian place nearby after every practice. This place was called Addis Ababa (not a Nile) which I thought was a little obvious, but I guess if you want Americans to know what type of cuisine you're serving, you don't have very many choices.

I actually tried making Ethiopian food one time (back when we used to cook for each other once a week, leading to the infamous Spikes of Death and Neopolitan Turkey Loaf meals). For the most part Ethiopian food is similar to a curry, but it's served on a pancake-like sourdough bread called injera. I knew I was going to have problems getting that right, but I found a recipe which involved using sourdough starter and letting it ferment for 48 hours.

It turns out that bread fermentation involves significant expansion. Yes, bread rises. The injera didn't just rise, it overflowed the bowl I had left it in and dripped down the wire mesh cabinet and all over the floor. Bowl propagation at its finest. (That joke's for you Rvan.) There's nothing like dried, semi-fermented sourdough mix to really make a difficult cleanup. For the record, though, in the end it tasted pretty close to what I thought it should.

Anyhow, someday I might try making it again. But this time I'll definitely use a bigger bowl.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not Very Sporting Of You, Old Chap!

It occurred to me today that the kids in my family didn't do much in the way of team sports. Jeff came the closest, with water polo in high school, but I got the feeling that game was as much about trying to drown your opponents as passing the ball around.

K-Poo and JoJo the Enforcer did gymnastics, which is about as individual as it gets. JoJo also tried out for soccer one year, but after she put another girl in a full leg cast, she was (inexplicably!) not chosen for the team. Eric was on a basketball team for one season if I remember correctly -- I believe they lost every single game, which isn't too surprising if they were expecting the German peasant hillbilly genes to help out in any way.

I don't think I ever was involved with any sort of team sport. It shows, too -- if you put me on a soccer field I tend to kick the ball in a random direction to get it as far away from me as possible because there are all these people running at me. This is not really the attitude of a champion polo player either.

What I did do, a whole lot, as a kid is swim. I started competing when I was four or five and couldn't get out of it until I was about twelve. I was an okay swimmer, but again, the German hillbilly peasants are known for buoyancy but not so much for speed. Anyhow, I spent a lot of time in heavily chlorinated pools, and for many years my hair had that greenish tinge that only blond swimmers can get.

Team sports like soccer teach strategy and teamwork and how to knock someone down when the ref isn't looking. Swimming teaches you how to deal with boredom. You develop a really rich inner life while spending a few hours every day counting to four (breathe!) and staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. Sometimes I would yodel underwater just for something different to do.

Ironically, swimming may have been the best preparation for my adult life. Sure I can't advance the ball or call out encouragement to my teammates, but I can stare at nothing for hours with the best of them...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heinz 57

I saw a news article recently about a Border Collie that could distinguish over one thousand different words. My first thought was "wow, that's pretty amazing" and then my second thought was "there is no way my black dog is part Border Collie".

Molly has a lot of things going for her: she's cute and fluffy, she always seems pretty happy, she doesn't care about fireworks or thunder (because she's deaf), she doesn't destroy the house when I leave, and she has finally figured out how to get on the bed without me showing her the step, but she's the spoon in a drawer full of knives when it comes to intelligence.

In the six months I've had Molly there have been many debates (often with perfect strangers) about what breed she is. Most people get thrown off by the white legs with black spots and think she must be a Border Collie. I think her inability to learn how to turn over a paper plate shoots that theory out of the water.

My current theory is that she's some sort of Spaniel mixed with Newfoundland. The Newfie part is mostly wishful thinking, but it would explain her coat and her goofiness.

I was thinking about doing one of those genetic tests on her, but my scam-alert goes off when I read reviews on them -- reproducibility doesn't seem to be a strong point for the labs that run these thing, which shows when people send samples from the same dog in twice and get completely different answers. So I'm not sure if it's worth sixty bucks for the entertainment.

In the end it doesn't really matter. If she can ignore the fact that I'm a German hillbilly peasant mix, I can live with not knowing what she might be. In the meantime I'm listing her breed as Clydesdale. It's a registered breed of the prestigious TKC (Theresa Kennel Club).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Plagiarize Yourself

It has come to my attention that another year has passed, so I should come up with some resolutions or something. The good news is that I have some slightly used resolutions from last year that I can reuse. The bad news is that I can reuse them because I didn't accomplish them the first time through. Whatever.

Anyhow, I chickened out on the whole leg-amputation-to-get-down-to-my-ideal-weight thing, so I guess I'll just have to continue the gradual weight loss via diet and (a tiny bit of) exercise. It would be more effective, perhaps, if I weren't eating Ben & Jerry's while writing this. I'm still holding cutting off my hair in reserve as a last ditch effort if necessary.

The turning 42 plan worked well (yay me!), and I also remained single and childless, both of which were heartily celebrated upon my return from visiting the family over Christmas.

I got almost nowhere on the novel last year, and I'm tempted to restart what I've got. On the other hand, that means that I can still change the requirements. Oh wait, that's what we do at work. And they change the requirements all the time anyhow. But this year it's really going to happen.

My only other resolution is hire someone to clean my house on a regular basis. That will be enough quality of life improvement to make double rainbows appear everywhere.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dressing Things Up

As I was cleaning up the house in preparation for the pet sitter to take care of the crew over Christmas, it occurred to me that my method of clothes storage showed a lack of... sophistication, shall we say. Sure, keeping everything in or on top of the drier was efficient, especially because things only got folded if I needed the drier for something else before they got worn again.

Yet there were a few problems with the system. For instance, a number of socks have ended up behind the drier. And inevitably the tower of clothes on top of the drier would fall over, so I would put a stack on the shelves in my closet where one of the cats would puke on them. That's rough on the clothes although the cats seemed pretty happy with the arrangement.

Anyhow, I decided to get a dresser for my closet, so I went to the hardware store. (Wait, everyone goes the the hardware store to get furniture, right?) I picked out the stuff I wanted, paid for it, then drove around back to get it loaded into the car.

I knew I might be in a little trouble when the guy whose job it is to lift heavy things all day asked me to help him load the boxes into my trunk because they were too heavy for one person to lift alone. So, yeah, I got home and had to unpack the boxes in my trunk and take all the pieces into the house separately.

Anyhow, on this picture from the box, you'll notice that it only requires a hammer and screwdriver.

However, on the third part of the pictorial instructions, it shows a right angle being used. Who owns one of those things? The correct answer is, not me. I figured I would just have to eyeball it. So my dresser might have a jaunty swagger -- it's in my closet. Who cares?

Overall the construction wasn't that difficult. None of the holes were pre-drilled on the second piece to be fastened, which was kind of a pain. At one point (as the boards were being pushed apart as I tried to seat the screw) I thought "They really should have pre-drilled the holes or at least used lag screws." And then I looked at the screw and realized it was a lag screw. And then I wondered how many people learned their carpentry techniques from orthopedic surgery classes instead of woodshop classes. Putting this thing together took two hours, so I had lots of time to think random thoughts like that.

The instructions for installing the dust bunny bar at the bottom included these diagrams:

Thanks for telling me not to screw it up. Wouldn't it just have been easier to pre-drill the holes? Jerks...

So one of the two is done, and the other one is still in pieces on my living room floor. Overall it was easier than the "tool-free" bookshelves that K-poo and I put together a few years ago.

Look at the page number on the last page of the instructions:

Yes, the entire instruction book was in English.

But at least I wasn't supposed to have a right angle.